Rethink Health - January 2010

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A Slow Return of Sense?

As I write, Hilary Benn (Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is hosting a conference of farmers to announce the Government's very latest thinking on agricultural policy. We need to grow our own food, a lot more of it, and do so using far less inputs. As climate change reduces the ability of third world countries to export out-of-season items to the UK, we shall have to make up the difference - that is, if the EU will let us. 

The Opposition proposes a new ombudsman to ensure that British farmers get a fair deal from supermarkets.

And a farmer's market in Bermondsey, my former home, is selling only produce grown within 100 miles radius of central London - some of it from only 11 miles away.

At last. For decades we have had to watch good land turned into vast prairies, then set-aside, all in the name of centralised European agricultural  policy. A few major agricultural firms have prospered, while most medium and small scale farmers have suffered. Lorry-loads of crops and carcasses are sent thousands of miles south, only to pass similar loads coming north to replace them.

Most of us knew all along that none of this was sensible. It may be some time before Whitehall embraces good sense whole-heartedly. And Brussels will be even slower to acknowledge that its policy could ever have been wrong.

We need to put our weight behind these changes. Politicians and supermarkets are susceptible to public opinion, particularly if lots of people express it. Here are measures we can all adopt to coax them along:-

When you feel your supplier is not making enough effort to provide you with these choices, tell their customer relations department in store and nationally. Just taking this trouble means you are already punching above your weight.

Crisis Winter

Snow lies deeper than for ages in Scotland, Yorkshire and the South of England, on top of frost that has endured for more than a week already. It's giving us plenty to think about, just getting by from day to day.

This has already subdued the virus nuisances that would otherwise be rife at this time of year. Hospitals are excepted, unfortunately - there seem always to be infectious risks in wait for those admitted in an already weakened state. 

But none of this changes a basic rule of life, which is that most of our critical illnesses occur in the winter months - principally from December to March. This applies to all acute emergencies - strokes and heart attacks - as well as bronchitis and pneumonia. Older people in particular do well to keep well inside our comfort zone - sufficient food, sleep and warmth, including plenty of wrappings when we venture out, walking shoes with a good grip on slippery pavements, and don't be too proud to carry a stick.

The young are more cavalier about covering up out of doors, but are foolish not to. If you do not carry in your car a range of sensible clothing, sacking and a spade, you are helpless in a queue of traffic thwarted by a snow-drift. I once spent a night out in deep snow, just four miles from home where there was no snow at all!

What Pandemic?

Everything seems to have gone very quiet on swine 'flu. In fact the number of cases is down, and deaths - whilst tragic - have been few. Disease remains mild in most of those affected. However the diagnosis is mainly speculative now, and probably applied too often "to be on the safe side".

My advice remains to be wary of vaccination against this disease unless you have reason to think you or your child is especially vulnerable. Even then you would do well to tackle vulnerability by more radical means - extra zinc and vitamin C (preferably as food or food-state supplements) is often helpful. Otherwise propolis seems a true friend, in fending off almost anything if taken early enough. You need to carry it, so that you can have several tablets at the first indication of symptoms. We have just received fresh supplies, should you need some.